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Smoke Free Supporters Challenge Petition Certification

July 3, 2009

Pierre, SD – Supporters of South Dakota’s new smoke-free law are challenging a petition that could force the law to go to a statewide ballot in 2010. The South Dakota Tobacco Free Kids Network has filed the challenge arguing nearly 10,000 of the 25,000 signatures turned in by a group that opposes the recently-passed smoking ban are invalid. After reviewing nearly 1,000 pages of signatures, the group says many of them do not belong to registered voters and as many as 39 percent are not valid.

Jennifer Stalley, project director for the Network, personally signed the affidavit challenging the signatures and says her group believes that 9,891 of the 25,400 signatures submitted to the secretary of state are invalid. The network believes the petition also contains problems with the way some of the signatures were gathered.

"We have respected the rights of the opponents to partake in this process, and this is the next step in that process. We think it is only fair to ask the secretary of state to review the signatures in total, given the law's impact and the immediate need to have it go into effect to preserve the health of those folks who are working in an environment where smoking is currently allowed."

Opponents say the smoke-free law is government intrusion into business and that it will create an economic hardship at a time when the economy is struggling. They believe a vote of the people would overturn the law. South Dakota Tobacco Free Kids Network chair Dr. Allen Nord disagrees and says it's strictly a health concern, because the United States Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

"This is a public health issue. There are over four thousand chemicals in secondhand smoke and over 60 of them are known to cause cancer. We estimate that about 120 South Dakotans die every year from secondhand smoke. Everybody understands it’s not good for you, but the research in the last decade or so has shown this is dramatically more dangerous than we ever thought."

The ban supporters argue there is an obligation to South Dakota workers who are exposed to secondhand smoke to do all they can to ensure the new smoke-free law is implemented. More than 16,000 valid signatures are needed to refer the smoke free law for a vote next year.



David Law, Public News Service - SD